Scenes From a Pandemic: 55

7 06 2021

by Zia Jaffrey

A continuing series of dispatches from Kopkind participants, advisers, guests and friends on life in coronavirus time as they observe and experience it.

(photo: Igor on Unsplash)

A Prisoner Videotaped Covid Conditions Last Year. Where Is He Now?

New York City

Out of one dream, another dream is born:

Yesterday, I heard someone from the West Bank say that denying Palestinians the vaccine is another act of genocide.

I thought of you, Dion, and the video you posted from federal prison last year, in Michigan.

Are you alive? I don’t know what happened to you.

In a green knitted cap, a white mask, and your dreads, you took us around with that contraband phone, saying: 

I fear retaliation for doing this. I’m putting my life on the line

You pleaded for our help, showing us bunk bed after bunk bed, in close proximity; suits and ironed clothes hung neatly on hangers from any rim they could find.  

I got a few little symptoms, but I don’t know if I’m gonna make it—they just sittin’ on us, waiting for us to die.

And the mattress, covered in clear plastic, where somebody had been really sick.

They ain’t sprayed the bed off, or nothing. They just left it like that.

Dion, is that your real name? I have looked for you everywhere. Are you alive? 

Look at these conditions? How can we practice social distancing when they got us all on top of each other like this?

You showed us the nearby area where men lay covered in thin blankets, shivering. The sick area. The men, barely responding. The checkered floor.

Did you meet the fate of the others?

Another image, now: a young man, whose sentence was two years, for possession; eyes closed; on the upper deck of a bunk bed. “Felon.” 

I can’t breathe

The price he will pay.  

Or did I dream that, Dion, from another video? Not from FCI Milan, but FCI Elkton, or Gaza? 

(photo: Phakphoom Srinorajan on Unsplash)

We need you all to be a voice for us.

Your deep vibrato. That cough. The mask.

Had to have a hunger strike to get these masks.

Heads of young people pop in and out of the frame—one, two, in sky-blue knitted caps; matching scarves, covering noses and mouths.

You take us into the bathroom: the unwashed windows, with unknown splatter—beige, the color of who knows what—the few sinks, the few shower stalls. Three stalls, to be precise. For eighty-plus men. Maybe ten sinks.

The showers—look how nasty and filthy it is—they ain’t sprayed it down with no bleach.

We see leftover scum, soap, rivers of it, overflowing from the neighboring stall, and sitting idly around a drain.

We had to go on a hunger strike just to get these masks—and get these little cleaning supplies that we do got.

You show us the SHU, outside the window:

People in there just waitin’ to die.

Out of one dream, another dream is born:

A different video, now. A journalist in Gaza. She explains that everyone was given an hour to leave the media building. Twelve stories high. “Hamas intelligence” target. Lawyers’ offices. Doctors’ offices. The journalists made way for the residents and their children who lived on the six floors below. Two warning missiles, fifteen minutes apart. Time’s up. So they took nothing. Building obliterated.

On the road, the next morning, the car in front of hers is destroyed suddenly. Had her driver not paused to answer his phone, she would not have survived.

What is the name of that thing? A drone? A hellfire missile?

We need y’all help out here, man.

Dion, where are you? 

And what will she tell her children, should anything happen to her? 

“Forgive me … this is my duty … I have to deliver this message to the world.

Another video, now, of a little girl in Gaza. She was sleeping beside Mama, she says. When she woke up, she was surrounded by ash. 

Where the Jay-Z’s at, man? I thought black lives matter.

Ain’t no disrespecting this. This is lasting genocide. 

“We are just an ordinary Palestinian couple. Between us, we have lost thirty relatives.”

I fear retaliation. I am putting my life on the line.

Dion? 

Dion, where are you? 

Are you alive?

I don’t benefit from any of this. My mom always told me, sacrifice is greater than blessing.

Zia Jaffrey is writing a book about the Holy Land Foundation case. The form of this piece is an homage to Mahmoud Darwish‘s Memory for Forgetfulness. Zia is a friend of Kopkind.

Scenes From a Pandemic is a Kopkind/Nation magazine collaboration. This piece orig-inally appeared on The Nation‘s website on June 2, 2021. We thank Katrina vanden Heuvel, D.D. Guttenplan and the Nation crew.

Bonus: There Is Still Beauty in the World

From California, Kopkinder Josh Wilson sent us some pictures (above and below) that he took in the mountains and at Bassi Falls. “I find myself continually amazed,” he writes, “by the water cycles of California and the West. The snow, the melt, the water rushing in clear, cold sheets and carving out these stream and riverbeds, and tumbling down waterfalls. This in contrast to the incredible drought of the present moment, and the dependence and vulnerability of human civilization in relation to these cycles. Being here, far beyond the city, makes us more aware of our place in these cycles. Observing the infrastructure built to control and channel this water is to glimpse marvels of engineering and hubris. … Bassi Falls, there are two of them, one 130’ high, and fed by Lake Tahoe. It was cold and clear the day we were there, even as the temperatures climbed, hitting 106 degrees just fifty miles west in Sacramento. Even with the water so low, it was early enough in the season that the flow was strong. During a high-water year the whole area would have been submerged.”


Actions

Information

One response

5 07 2021
A Prisoner Videotaped Covid Conditions Last Year. Where Is He Now? – Jewish Voice for Peace – Northern NJ

[…] This piece was originally published by The Nation on June 2, 2021, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/prison-covid-video/It is part of a Kopkind/Nation collaborative series called “Scenes From a Pandemic”.  It is also published on the Kopkind site.  https://kopkind.org/2021/06/07/scenes-from-a-pandemic-55/ […]

Leave a Reply to A Prisoner Videotaped Covid Conditions Last Year. Where Is He Now? – Jewish Voice for Peace – Northern NJ Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: